Under fire, the presidency has come out in defence of President Muhammadu Buhari against those who are feasting on his absence from two Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings. JONATHAN NDA – ISAIAH writes on fresh concerns this is generating over the true health status of the president.
Before the commencement of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday last week, all eyes were on the president’s seat at the council chambers of the Presidential Villa. Cabinet members waited for him as usual to enter into the chamber and take charge of the day’s proceedings.
Some minutes after 10:00am one of the protocol officers whispered to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, obviously telling him that the President will not be attending the FEC meeting. Immediately after, Osinbajo called for the opening prayers and the meeting commenced.
In an era where fake news fly everywhere like bullets, nothing can be hidden from the public even for a second. Immediately, words started filtering in that the president was incapacitated and had been flown secretly out of the country.
Obviously mindful of the fact that State House correspondents will ask why the president refused to attend the FEC meeting, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at the beginning of the weekly FEC briefing laid the cards on the table.
The minister said, “We just concluded the federal executive council meeting. I’m sure you noticed that the president was not there. He was not there because he asked that he be allowed to rest and asked the VP to preside.
“And he will be working from home. He has asked that all his files be taken to him in the house. He will be working from home today”.
Recall that three weeks ago the minister of Information had said the absence of President Buhari from FEC was not a sign that he was sick as he was only attending to other matters of the state.
According to him, the president had gone through the agenda of the meeting and found that it was light and therefore stayed away to attend to other matters and allow Osinbajo take charge.
Penultimate week, the senior special assistant on media and publicity to the president, Mallam Garba Shehu, has explained that FEC meeting could not hold due to logistic. He added that the meeting was cancelled because the FEC secretariat workers were unable to distribute necessary documents for the meeting due to the Easter holiday.
Keen observers of the polity have observed that for the president to miss FEC meeting for two consecutive time means all was not well with him. They made reference to the last days of former President Yar’Adua who after his return to the country from his medical vacation was hidden in the Villa and nobody was allowed to see him.
They express concern that the absence of the President at FEC meetings may be a pointer that the president may have not fully recovered from his treatment in the United Kingdom.
Lending their voice to the controversy that trailed Buhari’s absence at FEC, governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) however noted that they were not worried yet about the health of the president. The governors said this after a meeting between them and the party’s national working committee held at the APC national secretariat on Wednesday.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who spoke on behalf of the APC governors said, “We are not worried about the development. It is not compulsory for the president to preside over every Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. That is why our constitution makes available the place of the vice president.
“We are not worried yet or have any reason to be worried but I call on every Nigerian to join all of us to pray for the improved health of the president. It has improved in the last few weeks since he came back and we will continue to pray for his improved health.
“Mr. President is 74 years old; at that age it is possible to have one ailment or the other. Even I, at 57, take medication for one ailment or the other. Our prayer is that the president gets better but the reason he has a vice president is because of a time like this. It may not be as a reason of sickness that he didn’t attend FEC. He may have had other pressing issues to attend to. I have not had to chair every state executive council in Kaduna State because the deputy governor is there if I have other issues of greater priority to attend to”.
There have been preponderance of opinions on the president’s true health status.On one hand some political observers argue that the president is indeed working. They allude to the fact that the president has made many appointments in the last few weeks.
The thinking is that the president has been appointing heads of agencies and various vacant positions are being filled. Besides, the president had also taken a major stand on the allegations of financial impropriety levelled against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal and the Director – General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke who were both suspended.
What is playing out presently is sequel to the controversy that trailed the president’s medical vacation to the UK. At the time, rumours started flying that the president had cancer and was bed- ridden. Not even pictures of him with some notable personalities was able to change that narrative. When Buhari extended his medical vacation the rumour mill went on the overdrive. Some Nigerians demanded that the president makes a video call to Nigerians. Even when the president of the United States, Donald Trump made a call to Buhari, it was not enough to satisfy the doubting thomases.
On his return, the critics were still doubting if the president had actually returned. Some of them even claimed that the president did not come down from the aircraft unsupported. Much to the delight of his supporters and cabinet members, the president resumed work the Monday after he came back with some fanfare.
Now that the president has missed the last two FEC meetings, peddlers of fake news are back in business and the opposition alike. They have started questioning the absence of the President from public functions.
Under fire, the presidency last week Thursday came out in defence of Buhari. It assured Nigerians that President Buhari has not abdicated his role as the commander in chief.